Cássio Casseb Lima
1955–

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President, Banco do Brasil

Nationality: Brazilian.

Born: August 8, 1955, in Sāo Paulo, Brazil.

Education: Escola Politécnica, Universidade de Sāo Paulo, BS, 1978.

Family: Married; children: two.

Career: Banco do Boston, 1976–1979, position unknown; Banco Francês & Brasileiro, 1979–1988, account officer; Banco Mantrust, 1988–1992, vice president of finance and executive vice president; Grupo Vila Romana, 1992–1993, vice president of finance; Citibank, 1993–1997, vice president of finance; Credicard, 1997–1999, president; Banco do Brasil, 2003–, president.

Address: SBS Qd. 01 Bloco C, Edifício Sede III, 24th Floor, 70073-901 Brasília, D.F., Brazil; http://www.bb.com.br.

■ In 2003 the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio da Silva, or "Lula," named Cássio Casseb Lima president of Banco do Brasil. The largest bank in Latin America, Banco do Brasil was the most important financial institution in Brazil and operated branches in every city in the country. While many members of Lula's Workers' Party hoped for a political appointee who would toe the party line, the president instead opted for a professional banker in Casseb. An engineer by training, Casseb had worked for numerous financial institutions in Brazil since 1976. Casseb's long and successful career led Lula to pick him for such an important and powerful position.

EARLY CAREER

Casseb was born in Sāo Paulo, Brazil, in 1955. He obtained an engineering degree from the Polytechnic School at the University of Sāo Paulo in 1978. In 1976 he began his career at the Banco do Boston, where he worked until 1979. Casseb then went to work as an account officer at the Banco Francês & Brasileiro. After nine years, he began a stint at Banco Man-trust, where he worked as vice president of finance and executive vice president. Casseb then spent a year in 1992 and 1993 coordinating the restructuring of the Grupo Vila Romana. He next took a position at Citibank as vice president of finance. In 1997 Casseb became president of Credicard, Brazil's largest issuer of credit cards.

BANCO DO BRASIL

In January 2003 Inacio da Silva appointed Casseb to the post of president of Banco do Brasil, the most important banking job in the country. Created in 1808 the state-owned Banco do Brasil was Brazil's largest bank. When Casseb became the president in 2003, the bank was in good shape because it was well capitalized and well managed. However, such good standing was not always the case. In 1995 and 1996 the bank had posted losses in excess of $10 billion. Banco do Brasil faced a number of problems at the time. It suffered from bad loans and foreign exchange losses. Many Brazilians borrowed from Banco do Brasil to pay their other loans, only to default on the new loan. Government officials excessively interfered in the bank's affairs. An excessive number of employees hurt the bank's finances. Although the bank was weak and running up huge losses, Brazilian law prohibited the liquidation of Banco do Brasil. Instead, the government consistently pumped money into the bank. According to many bank executives, Banco do Brasil was directionless, overstaffed, and demoralized. At the same time, private banks in Brazil were growing larger and stronger.

President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who governed from 1994 until 2002, turned Banco do Brasil around. In part the government needed a profitable state bank to maintain a flow of revenue into the treasury. The bank reduced the number of employees from 120,000 to 78,000 and adopted a corporate mentality that ended the tradition of favoritism and politicization. The bank implemented a policy of rule by committee whereby the board of directors managed the bank. Directors had to unanimously approve all decisions, meaning that no single person decided bank policy alone. Committee rule also helped to protect the bank from government meddling. The bank's staff was motivated with profit-sharing systems. The bank also implemented stylish marketing campaigns aimed at the young and sophisticated, sponsoring beach volleyball teams and the tennis star Gustavo Kuerten.

When Lula became president, many experts wondered whether the new process would continue or Banco do Brasil would resort to its old ways. There was much discussion within the Workers' Party over whom to pick to lead the bank. Some party members called for a professional banker; others suggested a political appointee. One executive at the bank told John Barham of Latin Finance that "it is like this every four years when the government changes. It is like going through a takeover with a completely new owner." Lula surprised many financial observers by implementing relatively orthodox economic policies and selecting Casseb to head Banco do Brasil. Some members of Lula's own party objected to the appointment.

Despite the objections Casseb did not deviate from the bank's new corporate attitude, reducing the concerns of many investors and analysts. His job was not always easy, however. For example, Casseb and the managers at Banco do Brasil were subject to more union pressure than were other bank executives. In October 2003 a strike by bank employees shut down Banco do Brasil. Despite the difficulties Casseb succeeded in continuing the turnaround that had started in the 1990s. In 2003 the bank recorded $596 million in profits, up 64 percent from 2002. Indicative of Casseb's early success was the fact that Latin Finance in 2003 selected Banco do Brasil the most improved bank in Latin America.

See also entry on Banco do Brasil S.A. in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

Barham, John, "Lean Mean Banking Machine," Latin Finance , March 2003, p. 59.

"Government Appoints Bank Executive," Latin Finance , February 2003, p. 12.

"A Name to Reckon With," Latin Finance , November 2003.

"Solid, Profitable, and Yes, State-Owned," Latin Finance , March 2004, p. 50.

—Ronald Young

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